A Year of Cultural Celebrations in Europe

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It’s the European Year of Cultural Heritage, an ongoing celebration across multiple countries that includes museum exhibitions; tours of gardens and monuments​; theater, dance and ​musical performances; and the reappearance of many long-running annual festivals. Each event is meant to speak to the theme of European cultural heritage in some form or other, according to the European Commission. To that end, many of the activities aim to be both fun and enriching, and appear to be marketed to Europeans rather than to tourists — all the better for travelers seeking novel experiences with a more intimate, local feeling than the usual must-see attractions. Below, a sampling of more than half a dozen events to enjoy (some even for free), ​from now through the end of the year.

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Sharing Heritage, Germany

This ongoing countrywide celebration, part of the European Year of Cultural Heritage, includes a variety of activities. Among them is the Handel Festival in Halle, May 25 through June 10, a Baroque homage to the German-born composer in and around the city where he was born. More than 100 events are scheduled, including a new production of the opera “Berenice, Regina d’Egitto, HWV 38,” at Halle Opera. There will also be events in meaningful places throughout the city, like the church where Handel was baptized, and a cathedral where he was an organist. About a three-hour drive north, at the Museum Europäischer Kulturen in Berlin, is “I Never Said Goodbye/Women in Exile,” an exhibition (now through July 15) of photographs by Heike Steinweg of women — be it an author, artist, or political activist — living in exile in Berlin. A list of Sharing Heritage events and initiatives is at Sharingheritage.de/en/projects/.

Festival of Museums, Scotland

During t​his three-day celebration of history and ​the arts from May 18 to 20​, there will be more than 150 events at museums​ across Scotland that will ​highlight their collections and grounds​. For instance, on May 18 in Bo’ness, near Edinburgh, Kinneil House — a former noble’s home beside the Antonine Wall (part of the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage list) that dates to the Roman Empire — will be open (for free) in the evening, as will the neighboring museum. The house and museum are part of what’s known as the Kinneil Estate, where, on May 18, there will also be a nature walk and bat spotting on the grounds, an activity few museums and estates can boast they offer. Also during the festival, on May 20, Historic Environment Scotland will lead tours around the estate, which includes a cottage once used by James Watt, the inventor and engineer. (Note for long-distance walkers: The Kinneil Estate and Nature Reserve is part of the John Muir Way walking route across the heart of Scotland.) A list of other museums and events is at Festivalofmuseums.com/events. ​

Rendez-vous aux Jardins, France

Attention garden lovers: More than 2,000 gardens (including historic, contemporary and vegetable gardens, according to the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau) will be open to the public during this three-day festival from June 1 to 3. There will also be exhibitions, lectures and concerts, along with opportunities to mingle with the country’s gardeners, landscapers and botanists. As part of the European Year of Cultural Heritage, 2018 marks the first time that the Rendez-vous will take place in other countries as well, including Germany, Croatia, Spain, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, Monaco, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and in regions like Wallonia (Belgium) and the Canton of Vaud (Switzerland). Details: Rendezvousauxjardins.culturecommunication.gouv.fr.

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